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Fluctuating occupancy levels are fostering innovation in office cleaning management

Published 1st March, 2024 by Neil Nixon

Fluctuating occupancy levels are fostering innovation in office cleaning management

Dominic Ponniah, CEO and Co-founder of Cleanology, reports.

The COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the landscape of the commercial office sector. A recent survey by Knight Frank and Cresa1 suggests that, among large companies of 50,000 staff or more, around half are looking to decrease their office space. With more people working from home permanently, or only coming into the offices for just part of the working week, many companies are downsizing. The latest data2 from the Office for National Statistics shows that most people (84%) plan to continue to work from home at some point in their week.

This shift in working culture has resulted in continued fluctuations in office occupancy which has had a big impact on the way commercial cleaning companies organise their teams. As businesses navigate the complexities of remote work, hybrid models, and return-to-office strategies, cleaning companies face a set of evolving demands, operational challenges, and strategic considerations.

Of course, the pandemic raised awareness of hygiene and cleanliness like never before, making cleaning companies busier and more important than ever, especially as people returned to the workplace. But the unpredictable nature of office occupancy has encouraged plenty of innovation and new ways of working, especially when it comes to flexible scheduling and resource allocation. Implementing agile workforce management systems, leveraging technology for real-time monitoring, and maintaining open communication channels with clients have become essential strategies in adapting to ever changing demands.

At Cleanology, we’ve been proactive in adapting to the future of work. For example, we have always taken our sustainability impacts seriously. We have advocated for chemical-free cleaning for the past decade and we’re now almost chemical-free across our entire portfolio. Most recently, we developed our own portion-controlled sachets of biological cleaning solution, a move that is saving more than 16,000 litres of water each year, and has drastically cut the use of plastic bottles, from 21,600 to just 600 PET bottles. We’ve also embraced energy-efficient technologies, such as LED lighting, electric vehicles and low-energy equipment, to substantially reduce our carbon footprint, and lowered costs.

We also recognise the evolving needs of clients and offer a diverse service offering to include a range of specialised cleaning options, including deep cleaning and disinfection services.

It is an approach that has enabled us to stay ahead of the competition across the UK, win new contracts and retain clients in what is a tough environment, post pandemic.

In an industry known for low pay, we are bucking the trend by paying a Real Living Wage to our employees and offer them fixed hours, despite the challenges posed by office occupancy fluctuations. While some cleaning companies are happy with zero-hours contracts – whereby agency staff might be offered eight hours of work today, and nothing tomorrow – we continue to contract our staff on a fixed roster.

Yes, they might work different hours per day, but their hours are fixed. By guaranteeing our people a set number of hours’ work, we can build flexibility into what gets achieved during those hours and ensure our clients get a consistent quality of service.

Using technology to manage workflow and ensure flexibility

To achieve flexibility in the way we deliver on our contracts, we are increasingly turning to technology. We will soon be rolling out a trial to make use of sensor technology in buildings that will enable us to track office occupancy and determine the spaces that do and do not need cleaning.

Using sensor technology is an absolute gamechanger, not just for Cleanology but for the commercial cleaning sector as a whole. By determining which floors of a building are occupied and which are not, companies can significantly reduce the hours required for cleaning, even cutting the time it takes for people to open a door to look inside to determine what to clean.

There’s also another important benefit for commercial cleaning. Previously, cleaning was seen as a ‘soft service’, a very separate component to the rest of facilities management. But the introduction of sensor technology enables building occupiers to fully understand all of their M&E requirements – not just cleaning, but whether lighting and air conditioning needs to be turned off too. Given the associated energy and cost savings, the benefits of sensor technology can be realised incredibly quickly.

In the meantime, transparent time management of staff is crucial in successfully delivering against contracts. At Cleanology, we use a central software platform to schedule our team hours. Our employees receive a job card, they go to a site, they sign it and we can deliver a proof of service delivery. Each team must upload ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos too. The system gives our clients the flexibility to determine how many days’ cleaning they require on any given week.

The challenges facing commercial cleaning companies in the wake of fluctuating office occupancy rates are multifaceted. There are many operational, financial, and strategic considerations. But in finding new and interesting ways to work, cleaning firms can adapt to changing needs. The commercial office sector will continue to evolve, and the role of commercial cleaning companies will remain an integral part of ensuring people stay safe and well in the workplace.




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